|To the reader: Don’t miss the fun! All of the images here are GIFs. To enjoy this travel story, let the GIFs load completely.|
Puerto Princesa is the second largest city in the Philippines. But even so, you can totally backpack your way all throughout the northern part of it. Whether you want to explore the underground river, hop on to the famous islands, or just give it a go to the inland destinations, all may be arranged in one package. Even including a five or maybe four-star hotel accommodation. This was the set up we had last October of 2014. For three days and two nights we managed to swing by with all the famous tourist spots.
We arrived at the airport with the welcome of travel agents bringing cheerful greetings and shell bead necklaces. Our group composed of once again our usual selves, but now an extra group of a whole family and friends. My friend Lammy arranged her family’s tour dates along with ours and Petunia also had her sister and her friends, too. The hotel looked fancy. It stood on its premier period. The reception area appeared warm and comfortable and our room cozy and appealing. We started the day tour right after we absorbed all the pleasantries of our pad and taking our lunch at a nearby Pares eatery.
Our first day was for the destinations around the city. The places we visited included the city Cathedral, Mitra’s Ranch, Crocodile Park, and Baker’s Hill.
Night gathered. We had to try the talk of the town crocodile sisig at Kinabuchs’ Grill/Bar and Restaurant. It tasted like chicken meat. I thought it was gonna taste different, but the only distinctness was its cost. Chicken or pork sisig are way cheaper.
It was a tiring day indeed, thankfully we had time to prepare for bed and watch a single episode of The Walking Dead while we yawn for oxygen like those hungry zombies until our eyelids drop.
Time for breakfast, the dining area offered all the kinds for a morning person. Complete diet for the health conscious, bacon, eggs, hotdogs, sausages, milk, rice, boiled pork slices, soup, cereals, fruit juice, and coffee. After a suitable amount of victuals for digestion, we took off. The plan was to spend the day just at one main attraction, the underground river. Before we got there, we stopped on several sceneries including the Ugong Rock Formations, where you can avail the ziplining or rock climbing experiences.
It was already lunchtime when we got to Sabang port. Ate Mitch, our tour guide, utter her trivia and humor every now and then. Initially we believed her, but the punchlines gave her away. One thing she said was the mountains covering the underground river is the tallest mountain in the world, taller than Mt. Everest. But it had to magically stand up first, being it’s lying on it’s back, thereby claiming its nickname – the sleeping giant.
Trying not to get our clothes dirty with mud, we walked to a bistro filling ourselves with their prepped food. The jolly background performers played along live music. As we were done with our meal, a local man approached us and offered some tamilok. (a naval shipworm, is a species of saltwater clam, a marine bivalve mollusk – wiki) It’s an exotic snack in Palawan. We accepted the challenge and bought one serving of naked woodworms. First to the challenge was Giggles, we curiously watched her as she tried to chew the slime in her mouth with her face showing anxiety and disgust. She managed to swallow by ingesting it along with a cake bite and a softdrink. Eventually we all tried to eat one. It seemed okay. It was very hard to chew. The thing is you can’t actually chew it. You have to swallow it entirely. We had laughs each time we made an awkward look on our faces.
Let it go, let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore. Lumpy and Giggles sung along with the wind while the sun glared directly at us, no visible cloud anywhere up. A few minutes later our ride appeared from the crowd of boats. Fifteen to thirty minutes later we arrived at the beach of the Subterranean River Park.
It felt exciting to anticipate our underground river experience, and when we got inside, it was amazing. Different stone formations, which the locals gave creative depictions from various references, including nature, literature, and other worldly phenomenon.
The massive river of darkness expands up to five miles but only half can be navigated by boat. Our group’s permit acquired us a one-mile travel only. Within the cave lie species of bats and insects. Our canoe guy blurted out trivia with corresponding humor every so often. For example, “We call that corner on your left the batcave, numerous bats inhabit that area. Can you smell that? We call bathroom, too.”, Our chuckles usually were followed by frowns. His delivery kind of earned it. But If you can imagine, they did that everyday to amuse tourists. Evidently, a compulsory guide encouragement sign is posted just over the canoe lineup.
The light illuminated gradually, the opportunity for a good groufie seemed probable right at the mouth of the cave. We took our shot and with no hurry headed back to the hotel. It was twilight when we came back. Meanwhile, we decided to have our own ways for dinner. Luckily, my friend Petunia had family relatives residing not so far from the city. She told us to come with her and her sister and take our dinner there. Upon our arrival to their uncle’s place, there were already platters of seafoods right at their terrace waiting for us. At the table were humongous flavorful crabs, cockles, shrimps, conchs, a couple of milkfish and a bowl of seaweeds. The conchs were my favorite, it took us some effort to do the right tricks for eating them but it was worth it. It was a dinner well served. We managed to develop a pair of gills and our skin turned to scales when we left the house. Us guys became merpeople and the girls sang mermaid songs as their legs turned to fishtails. We swam to the ocean and built a kingdom deep the seafloors. We met Aquaman and learned how to communicate to all the sea creatures. Obviously, I’m kidding about that last part, we didn’t meet Aquaman.
We generously indulged our time in the pool back at the hotel. We played games, naughtily exhibited tricks, underwater selfies, and much much more until our bodies got tired and we went up our pads to take our rests. The night passed on smoothly.
Apart from the usual breakfast and roadtrip, the next thing we encountered was indeed one of the best and unforgettable experience we ever had so far. We approached Honda bay, Islands of various water engagements. Starfish Island was our first stop, there we saw dozens and dozens of the same starfish specie that spread through the shallow parts of the waters. A few feet further were organisms of kelp and seagrass and some varieties of cichlids. The next Island we swam on was what we can say the most outstanding of all the three islands of Honda bay. Pandan Island, where we witnessed and personally experienced fish feeding with a cloud of fishes.
It was totally amazing to feel those creatures swim beside you as you hold still with a handful of bread in your hand. We were careful not to startle them and make them swim away. Some of us also had the time to do kayaking. Still enjoying the bed of sea creatures, we heard Ate Mitch called us from afar, it was time to go.
Cowrie Island was the last destination. There we had our lunch and our final swim on the beach. We spent an hour or two at Cowrie Island before we finally head back. The hotel staff gave us souvenirs to take home, inside yellow eco bags with universal planet travel logo were a coin purse, a bag tag, and a rainmaker. Our check out time was early and we still had a few hours to spend before hurrying to the airport. Looking for someplace to eat, we checked in our baggage first and went out to grab some of Palawan’s talk of the town, the Chow-long. Basically rice noodles poured with a hot broth of your choice. Chicken, beef, or pork. Minutes later we got back to the airport and boarded the plane.
Waving our goodbyes, we separated upon touchdown and went home with another set of remarkable memories we shall never forget.